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Iran vows to protect civilians in Syria's Idlib province

Iran vows to protect civilians in Syria's Idlib province

The leaders of Russian Federation and Turkey have agreed to create a demilitarized buffer zone in the Syrian province of Idlib to separate government and rebel forces.

The demilitarized zone with a depth of 15-20 kilometers will be created along the contact line of the armed opposition and the government forces, Putin said at a joint press conference following talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Russia's Sochi.

Meanwhile, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said there will be no new military operation on Idlib by Syrian government forces and their allies, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.

Both sides have already established observation points near flashpoints in the province but the latest development marks increased cooperation between the two countries, which back opposing sides in the war.

An Idlib offensive holds multiple threats for Turkey right on its border - a humanitarian crisis, a security nightmare with thousands of gunmen loose and a defeat to its plans for the safe zone.

After initial efforts to secure a cease-fire failed, Turkey sent more troops inside Syria and bolstered support to rebel groups in the area.

For the past two years, Idlib saw an influx of an estimated 20,000 rebel fighters from around the country after their losses to government troops and surrender deals negotiated with Russian Federation and Damascus following devastating sieges.

"Russia will surely take necessary precautions to ensure the Idlib de-escalation zone is not attacked". Tehran also backs Damascus in Syria's seven-year-old civil war.

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The province of Idlib in northwestern Syria is the largest bastion of the opposition, and Turkey has been eager to prevent a potential government offensive there.

At that summit the Russian and Turkish leaders openly disagreed over how to deal with the rebel stronghold, which borders Turkey.

During this process, the Western powers and Turkey have expressed dismay and rejection of such an offensive in Idlib, talking about a possible new influx of refugees to Turkey and Europe and the negative repercussion of a new wave of refugees, taking into consideration that foreign jihadists might infiltrate the ranks of civilians and reach Europe.

Erdoğan had for weeks been responding to Russian pressure by trying to persuade HTS fighters to either relent or separate from the Turkish-backed forces stationed mainly further south in the Idlib region including towns such as Maarat al-Nu'man.

For Russia, foreign fighters in Idlib are a big concern.

Putin said Turkey-Russia relations "are developing positively".

Two days after the attack on the hospital in Hama, a strike hit and damaged an underground hospital on the outskirts of Hass in Idlib, according to the Observatory.

Separately, and for the first time since the start of the 2011 uprising against Assad, Syrian nationals residing in regime-controlled areas cast on Sunday their ballots in local elections.


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